Tuesday, February 15, 2011

House passes PATRIOT Act extension after all

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Remember how, exactly a week ago, the House of Representatives failed to pass an extension of three key (illegal) provisions of the PATRIOT Act that enabled the government to perform warrantless wiretaps and other forms of privacy-infringement, all thanks to a number of newcomer Republicans voting against party lines? Well, scratch that: The extension has been passed after all, if only thanks to a change in voting procedures:

The House approved Monday a measure that would extend key provisions of the Patriot Act through December. Their vote came less than a week after House Republicans suffered an embarrassing defeat when the same bill was brought up under fast-track rules and failed by seven votes.

The measure passed Monday night on a vote of 275 to 144, two fewer than it received last week. But this time, no two-thirds super-majority was required for passage, only a simple majority. Twenty-seven Republicans joined most Democrats on Monday to vote "no," while 65 Democrats joined with most Republicans to support the measure.

The bill would extend three key provisions of the counterterrorism surveillance law that are set to expire Feb. 28, unless Congress moves to reauthorize them.

One of the provisions authorizes the FBI to continue using roving wiretaps on surveillance targets; the second allows the government to access "any tangible items," such as library records, in the course of surveillance; and the third is a "lone wolf" provision that allows for the surveillance of targets who are not connected to an identified terrorist group.

So this was passed even though the damned thing received even less votes than last week, if only because of their evident zeal to continue using the Fourth Amendment in their restroom stalls.

That’ll teach us to think Congress could do the right thing for a change.